For Abuse in Later Life
There is no age limit when it comes to sexual and domestic violence. You may experience abuse in later life whether you are healthy, ailing, or have a disability. You may be abused by a partner, spouse or companion, or an adult child. Sometimes the offender is also your primary caregiver, which can make you feel more dependent and isolated from others. In addition to tactics common to all offenders, those who abuse people in later life have been known to use other tactics including:
denial of food or medication
financial exploitation including identity theft
hiding or vandalizing hearing aids, walkers, wheelchairs, or eyeglasses
denial of assistance with bathing or cleaning
denial of access to communication or visits with loved ones.
The abuse may have been going on for years, or the violence may have begun recently in a long-term relationship. You may find yourself with a new abusive partner after being separated, divorced, or widowed. Lifestyle changes of your own and/or the abuser including retirement, normal aging, limited mobility, and illness can aggravate sexual and domestic violence later in life.
Regardless of your age, you may experience many of the common concerns and barriers to seeking help, maintaining your dignity and safety. On the other hand, given your age, you may have very real and well-founded unique concerns and fears of disclosing the abuse, finding appropriate services, and making choices.
You may feel:
The impact of abuse on victims of any age is profound and under-reported.
In pain (physically or emotionally)
Dependent on the abuser
Love for the abuser
For elders (those in later life), you may have additional and unique concerns about your safety and options:
ageist assumptions and ignorance about older people’s relationships and sexuality
physical frailty or disabilities (including limited hearing, eyesite, mobility)
fear of being institutionalized or displaced from your home
fear loss of independence
dependence on the offender for elements of your daily life
fear of losing benefits and health insurance
limited economic options and resources
reconciliation with your religious and cultural beliefs regarding marriage and family loyalty
responsibility for giving care to the offender
belief that battering is an acceptable part of a relationship
stigma attached to asking for help and being unaware of available resources
For Help and More Information
Want to talk to someone about your own safety or about someone you care about? Regardless of your age, remember that local sexual and domestic violence programs are there to provide help and support. A trained advocate is available to discuss your needs, help you identify support services, shelters, and other resources, and refer you to services for sexual and domestic violence.
Most professionals in Massachusetts (doctors, nurses, social workers, and others) are required to report suspected abuse or neglect of anyone over age 60 to the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA). You can also refer yourself for services. Through their protective services program, you can find advocacy, help with finances, help making a safety plan, help with care-giving, housing and other supportive services.
To report suspected abuse of people 60 and over in Massachusetts, contact:
MA Elder Abuse Hotline
24 hour (voice and TTY)
There are several programs in Massachusetts and around the country that specialize in information about and providing services for older victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. In Massachusetts, some sexual and domestic violence programs offer support groups specifically for people in later life. Ask your local program whether there is such a group near you.
Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse
Safe Havens is a Boston-based nonprofit that provides services nationally and locally. Working as a bridge between service providers and faith leaders, Safe Havens provides education, resources, advocacy, and technical assistance on domestic and sexual violence and elder abuse to improve access to services, foster leadership development, and encourage collaboration. Safe Havens has developed specific resources for service providers who want to partner with their area faith communities on addressing abuse in later life.
SAGE-Boston (Stop Abuse Gain Empowerment)
National Center on Elder Abuse
Administration on Aging, US Department of Health and Human Services
1201 15th Street, N.W., Suite 350
Washington, DC 20005-2842
Tel (202) 898-2586 • Fax: (202) 898-2583
AgingInPlace | National Council for Aging Care
1530 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22209
Tel (877) 664-6140
Guide to Recognizing Elder Abuse: http://www.aginginplace.org/guide-to-recognizing-elder-abuse/